Sartre Quotes

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The novel, then, provides a reduction of the world different from that of the treatise. It has to lie. Words, thoughts, patterns of word and thought, are enemies of truth, if you identify that with what may be had by phenomenological reductions. Sartre was always, as he explains in his autobiography, aware of their being at variance with reality. One remembers the comic account of this antipathy in Iris Murdoch Under the Net, one of the few truly philosophical novels in English; truth would be found only in a silent poem or a silent novel. As soon as it speaks, begins to be a novel, it imposes causality and concordance, development, character, a past which matters and a future within certain broad limits determined by the project of the author rather than that of the characters. They have their choices, but the novel has its end. ____________________ There is a remarkable passage in Ortega y Gasset London essay ' History as a System' (in Philosophy and History, ed. Klibansky and Paton, 1936) which very clearly states the issues more notoriously formulated by Sartre. Ortega is discussing man's duty to make himself. 'I invent projects of being and doing in the light of circumstance. This alone I come upon, this alone is given me: circumstance. It is too often forgotten that man is impossible without imagination, without the capacity to invent for himself a conception of life, to "ideate" the character he is going to be. Whether he be original or a plagiarist, man is the novelist of himself... Among... possibilities I must choose. Hence, I am free. But, be it well understood, I am free by compulsion, whether I wish to be or not... To be free means to be lacking in constitutive identity, not to have subscribed to a determined being, to be able to be other than what one was... ' This 'constitutive instability' is the human property lacking in the novels condemned by Sartre and Murdoch. Ortega differs from Sartre on the use of the past; but when he says that his free man is, willy-nilly, 'a second-hand God, ' creating his own entity, he is very close to Sartre, who says that to be is to be like the hero in a novel. In one instance the eidetic image is of God, in the other of the Hero.

Frank Kermode
We are all poor; but there is a difference between what Mrs. Spark intends by speaking of 'slender means', and what Stevens called our poverty or Sartre our need, besoin. The poet finds his brief, fortuitous concords, it is true: not merely 'what will suffice, ' but 'the freshness of transformation, ' the 'reality of decreation, ' the 'gaiety of language.' The novelist accepts need, the difficulty of relating one's fictions to what one knows about the nature of reality, as his donnee. It is because no one has said more about this situation, or given such an idea of its complexity, that I want to devote most of this talk to Sartre and the most relevant of his novels, La Nausee. As things go now it isn't of course very modern; Robbe-Grillet treats it with amused reverence as a valuable antique. But it will still serve for my purposes. This book is doubtless very well known to you; I can't undertake to tell you much about it, especially as it has often been regarded as standing in an unusually close relation to a body of philosophy which I am incompetent to expound. Perhaps you will be charitable if I explain that I shall be using it and other works of Sartre merely as examples. What I have to do is simply to show that La Nausee represents, in the work of one extremely important and representative figure, a kind of crisis in the relation between fiction and reality, the tension or dissonance between paradigmatic form and contingent reality. That the mood of Sartre has sometimes been appropriate to the modern demythologized apocalypse is something I shall take for granted; his is a philosophy of crisis, but his world has no beginning and no end. The absurd dishonesty of all prefabricated patterns is cardinal to his beliefs; to cover reality over with eidetic images-illusions persisting from past acts of perception, as some abnormal children 'see' the page or object that is no longer before them -to do this is to sink into mauvaise foi. This expression covers all comfortable denials of the undeniable-freedom -by myths of necessity, nature, or things as they are. Are all the paradigms of fiction eidetic? Is the unavoidable, insidious, comfortable enemy of all novelists mauvaise foi? Sartre has recently, in his first instalment of autobiography, talked with extraordinary vivacity about the roleplaying of his youth, of the falsities imposed upon him by the fictive power of words. At the beginning of the Great War he began a novel about a French private who captured the Kaiser, defeated him in single combat, and so ended the war and recovered Alsace. But everything went wrong. The Kaiser, hissed by the poilus, no match for the superbly fit Private Perrin, spat upon and insulted, became 'somehow heroic.' Worse still, the peace, which should instantly have followed in the real world if this fiction had a genuine correspondence with reality, failed to occur. 'I very nearly renounced literature, ' says Sartre. Roquentin, in a subtler but basically similar situation, has the same reaction. Later Sartre would find again that the hero, however assiduously you use the pitchfork, will recur, and that gaps, less gross perhaps, between fiction and reality will open in the most close-knit pattern of words. Again, the young Sartre would sometimes, when most identified with his friends at the lycee, feel himself to be 'freed at last from the sin of existing'-this is also an expression of Roquentin's, but Roquentin says it feels like being a character in a novel. How can novels, by telling lies, convert existence into being? We see Roquentin waver between the horror of contingency and the fiction of aventures. In Les Mots Sartre very engagingly tells us that he was Roquentin, certainly, but that he was Sartre also, 'the elect, the chronicler of hells' to whom the whole novel of which he now speaks so derisively was a sort of aventure, though what was represented within it was 'the unjustified, brackish existence of my fellow-creatures.

Frank Kermode
For Aristotle the literary plot was analogous to the plot of the world in that both were eductions from the potency of matter. Sartre denies this for the world, and specifically denies, in the passage just referred to, that without potentiality there is no change. He reverts to the Megaric view of the matter, which Aristotle took such trouble to correct. But this is not our affair. The fact is that even if you believe in a Megaric world there is no such thing as a Megaric novel; not even Paterson. Change without potentiality in a novel is impossible, quite simply; though it is the hopeless aim of the cut-out writers, and the card-shuffle writers. A novel which really implemented this policy would properly be a chaos. No novel can avoid being in some sense what Aristotle calls 'a completed action.' This being so, all novels imitate a world of potentiality, even if this implies a philosophy disclaimed by their authors. They have a fixation on the eidetic imagery of beginning, middle, and end, potency and cause. Novels, then, have beginnings, ends, and potentiality, even if the world has not. In the same way it can be said that whereas there may be, in the world, no such thing as character, since a man is what he does and chooses freely what he does-and in so far as he claims that his acts are determined by psychological or other predisposition he is a fraud, le¢che, or salaud-in the novel there can be no just representation of this, for if the man were entirely free he might simply walk out of the story, and if he had no character we should not recognize him. This is true in spite of the claims of the doctrinaire nouveau roman school to have abolished character. And Sartre himself has a powerful commitment to it, though he could not accept the Aristotelian position that it is through character that plot is actualized. In short, novels have characters, even if the world has not. What about time? It is, effectively, a human creation, according to Sartre, and he likes novels because they concern themselves only with human time, a faring forward irreversibly into a virgin future from ecstasy to ecstasy, in his word, from kairos to kairos in mine. The future is a fluid medium in which I try to actualize my potency, though the end is unattainable; the present is simply the pour-soi., 'human consciousness in its flight out of the past into the future.' The past is bundled into the en-soi, and has no relevance. 'What I was is not the foundation of what I am, any more than what I am is the foundation of what I shall be.' Now this is not novel-time. The faring forward is all right, and fits the old desire to know what happens next; but the denial of all causal relation between disparate kairoi, which is after all basic to Sartre's treatment of time, makes form impossible, and it would never occur to us that a book written to such a recipe, a set of discontinuous epiphanies, should be called a novel. Perhaps we could not even read it thus: the making of a novel is partly the achievement of readers as well as writers, and readers would constantly attempt to supply the very connections that the writer's programme suppresses. In all these ways, then, the novel falsifies the philosophy.

Frank Kermode
A non-religious man today ignores what he considers sacred but, in the structure of his consciousness, could not be without the ideas of being and the meaningful. He may consider these purely human aspects of the structure of consciousness. What we see today is that man considers himself to have nothing sacred, no god; but still his life has a meaning, because without it he could not live; he would be in chaos. He looks for being and does not immediately call it being, but meaning or goals; he behaves in his existence as if he had a kind of center. He is going somewhere, he is doing something. We do not see anything religious here; we just see man behaving as a human being. But as a historian of religion, I am not certain that there is nothing religious here... I cannot consider exclusively what that man tells me when he consciously says, 'I don't believe in God; I believe in history, ' and so on. For example, I do not think that Jean-Paul Sartre gives all of himself in his philosophy, because I know that Sartre sleeps and dreams and likes music and goes to the theater. And in the theater he gets into a temporal dimension in which he no longer lives his 'moment historique.' There he lives in quite another dimension. We live in another dimension when we listen to Bach. Another experience of time is given in drama. We spend two hours at a play, and yet the time represented in the play occupies years and years. We also dream. This is the complete man. I cannot cut this complete man off and believe someone immediately when he consciously says that he is not a religious man. I think that unconsciously, this man still behaves as the 'homo religiosus, ' has some source of value and meaning, some images, is nourished by his unconscious, by the imaginary universe of the poems he reads, of the plays he sees; he still lives in different universes. I cannot limit his universe to that purely self-conscious, rationalistic universe which he pretends to inhabit, since that universe is not human.

Mircea Eliade
I hope I have now made it clear why I thought it best, in speaking of the dissonances between fiction and reality in our own time, to concentrate on Sartre. His hesitations, retractations, inconsistencies, all proceed from his consciousness of the problems: how do novelistic differ from existential fictions? How far is it inevitable that a novel give a novel-shaped account of the world? How can one control, and how make profitable, the dissonances between that account and the account given by the mind working independently of the novel? For Sartre it was ultimately, like most or all problems, one of freedom. For Miss Murdoch it is a problem of love, the power by which we apprehend the opacity of persons to the degree that we will not limit them by forcing them into selfish patterns. Both of them are talking, when they speak of freedom and love, about the imagination. The imagination, we recall, is a form-giving power, an esemplastic power; it may require, to use Simone Weil's words, to be preceded by a 'decreative' act, but it is certainly a maker of orders and concords. We apply it to all forces which satisfy the variety of human needs that are met by apparently gratuitous forms. These forms console; if they mitigate our existential anguish it is because we weakly collaborate with them, as we collaborate with language in order to communicate. Whether or no we are predisposed towards acceptance of them, we learn them as we learn a language. On one view they are 'the heroic children whom time breeds / Against the first idea, ' but on another they destroy by falsehood the heroic anguish of our present loneliness. If they appear in shapes preposterously false we will reject them; but they change with us, and every act of reading or writing a novel is a tacit acceptance of them. If they ruin our innocence, we have to remember that the innocent eye sees nothing. If they make us guilty, they enable us, in a manner nothing else can duplicate, to submit, as we must, the show of things to the desires of the mind. I shall end by saying a little more about La Nausee, the book I chose because, although it is a novel, it reflects a philosophy it must, in so far as it possesses novel form, belie. Under one aspect it is what Philip Thody calls 'an extensive illustration' of the world's contingency and the absurdity of the human situation. Mr. Thody adds that it is the novelist's task to 'overcome contingency'; so that if the illustration were too extensive the novel would be a bad one. Sartre himself provides a more inclusive formula when he says that 'the final aim of art is to reclaim the world by revealing it as it is, but as if it had its source in human liberty.' This statement does two things. First, it links the fictions of art with those of living and choosing. Secondly, it means that the humanizing of the world's contingency cannot be achieved without a representation of that contingency. This representation must be such that it induces the proper sense of horror at the utter difference, the utter shapelessness, and the utter inhumanity of what must be humanized. And it has to occur simultaneously with the as if, the act of form, of humanization, which assuages the horror. This recognition, that form must not regress into myth, and that contingency must be formalized, makes La Nausee something of a model of the conflicts in the modern theory of the novel. How to do justice to a chaotic, viscously contingent reality, and yet redeem it? How to justify the fictive beginnings, crises, ends; the atavism of character, which we cannot prevent from growing, in Yeats's figure, like ash on a burning stick? The novel will end; a full close may be avoided, but there will be a close: a fake fullstop, an 'exhaustion of aspects, ' as Ford calls it, an ironic return to the origin, as in Finnegans Wake and Comment c'est. Perhaps the book will end by saying that it has provided the clues for another, in which contingency will be defeated, ...

Frank Kermode
The new atheists show a disturbing lack of understanding of or concern about the complexity and ambiguity of modern experience, and their polemic entirely fails to mention the concern for justice and compassion that, despite their undeniable failings, has been espoused by all three of the monotheisms. Religious fundamentalists also develop an exagerrated view of their enemy as the epitome of evil. This tendency makes critique of the new atheists too easy. They never discuss the work of such theologians as Bultmann or Tillich, who offer a very different view of religion and are closer to mainstream tradition than any fundamentalist. Unlike Feurerbach, Marx and Freud, the new atheists are not theologically literate. As one of their critics has remarked, in any military strategy it is essential to confront the enemy at its strongest point; failure to do so means that their polemic remains shallow and lacks intellectual depth. It is also morally and intellectually conservative. Unlike Feurerback, Marx, Ingersoll or Mill, these new Atheists show little concern about the poverty, injustice and humiliation that has inspired many of the atrocities they deplore; they show no yearning for a better world. Nor, like Nietzsche , Sartre or Camus, do they compel their readers to face up to the pointlessness and futility that ensue when people lack the resources to create a sense of meaning. They do not appear to consider the effect of such nihilism on people who do not have privileged lives and absorbing work.

Karen Armstrong
There can be no doubt that the chief fault we have developed, through the long course of human evolution, is a certain basic passivity. When provoked by challenges, human beings are magnificent. When life is quiet and even, we take the path of least resistance, and then wonder why we feel bored. A man who is determined and active doesn't pay much attention to 'luck'. If things go badly, he takes a deep breath and redoubles his effort. And he quickly discovers that his moments of deepest happiness often come after such efforts. The man who has become accustomed to a passive existence becomes preoccupied with 'luck'; it may become an obsession. When things go well, he is delighted and good humored; when they go badly, he becomes gloomy and petulant. He is unhappy-or dissatisfied-most of the time, for even when he has no cause for complaint, he feels that gratitude would be premature; things might go wrong at any moment; you can't really trust the world... Gambling is one basic response to this passivity, revealing the obsession with luck, the desire to make things happen. The absurdity about this attitude is that we fail to recognize the active part we play in making life a pleasure. When my will is active, my whole mental and physical being works better, just as my digestion works better if I take exercise between meals. I gain an increasing feeling of control over my life, instead of the feeling of helplessness (what Sartre calls 'contingency') that comes from long periods of passivity. Yet even people who are intelligent enough to recognize this find the habit of passivity so deeply ingrained that they find themselves holding their breath when things go well, hoping fate will continue to be kind.

Colin Wilson
You've a perfect right to call me as impractical as a dormouse, and to feel I'm out of touch with life. But this is the point where we simply can't see eye to eye. We've nothing whatever in common. Don't you see... it's not an accident that's drawn me from Blake to Whitehead, it's a certain line of thought which is fundamental to my whole approach. You see, there's something about them both... They trusted the universe. You say I don't know what the modern world's like, but that's obviously untrue. Anyone who's spent a week in London knows just what it's like... if you mean neurosis and boredom and the rest of it. And I do read a modern novel occasionally, in spite of what you say. I've read Joyce and Sartre and Beckett and the rest, and every atom in me rejects what they say. They strike me as liars and fools. I don't think they're dishonest so much as hopelessly tired and defeated." Lewis had lit his pipe. He did it as if Reade were speaking to someone else. Now he said, smiling faintly, "I don't think we're discussing modern literature." Reade had an impulse to call the debater's trick, but he repressed it. Instead he said quietly, "We're discussing modern life, and you brought up the subject. And I'm trying to explain why I don't think that murders and wars prove your point. I'm writing about Whitehead because his fundamental intuition of the universe is the same as my own. I believe like Whitehead that the universe is a single organism that somehow takes account of us. I don't believe that modern man is a stranded fragment of life in an empty universe. I've an instinct that tells me that there's a purpose, and that I can understand that purpose more deeply by trusting my instinct. I can't believe the world is meaningless. I don't expect life to explode in my face at any moment. When I walk back to my cottage, I don't feel like a meaningless fragment of life walking over a lot of dead hills. I feel a part of the landscape, as if it's somehow aware of me, and friendly.

Colin Wilson
He began as a minor imitator of Fitzgerald, wrote a novel in the late twenties which won a prize, became dissatisfied with his work, stopped writing for a period of years. When he came back it was to BLACK MASK and the other detective magazines with a curious and terrible fiction which had never been seen before in the genre markets; Hart Crane and certainly Hemingway were writing of people on the edge of their emotions and their possibility but the genre mystery markets were filled with characters whose pain was circumstantial, whose resolution was through action; Woolrich's gallery was of those so damaged that their lives could only be seen as vast anticlimax to central and terrible events which had occurred long before the incidents of the story. Hammett and his great disciple, Chandler, had verged toward this more than a little, there is no minimizing the depth of their contribution to the mystery and to literature but Hammett and Chandler were still working within the devices of their category: detectives confronted problems and solved (or more commonly failed to solve) them, evil was generalized but had at least specific manifestations: Woolrich went far out on the edge. His characters killed, were killed, witnessed murder, attempted to solve it but the events were peripheral to the central circumstances. What I am trying to say, perhaps, is that Hammett and Chandler wrote of death but the novels and short stories of Woolrich were death. In all of its delicacy and grace, its fragile beauty as well as its finality. Most of his plots made no objective sense. Woolrich was writing at the cutting edge of his time. Twenty years later his vision would attract a Truffaut whose own influences had been the philosophy of Sartre, the French nouvelle vague, the central conception that nothing really mattered. At all. But the suffering. Ah, that mattered; that mattered quite a bit.

Barry N. Malzberg
The 1950s and 1960s: philosophy, psychology, myth There was considerable critical interest in Woolf 's life and work in this period, fuelled by the publication of selected extracts from her diaries, in A Writer's Diary (1953), and in part by J. K. Johnstone's The Bloomsbury Group (1954). The main critical impetus was to establish a sense of a unifying aesthetic mode in Woolf 's writing, and in her works as a whole, whether through philosophy, psychoanalysis, formal aesthetics, or mythopoeisis. James Hafley identified a cosmic philosophy in his detailed analysis of her fiction, The Glass Roof: Virginia Woolf as Novelist (1954), and offered a complex account of her symbolism. Woolf featured in the influential The English Novel: A Short Critical History (1954) by Walter Allen who, with antique chauvinism, describes the Woolfian 'moment' in terms of 'short, sharp female gasps of ecstasy, an impression intensified by Mrs Woolf 's use of the semi-colon where the comma is ordinarily enough'. Psychological and Freudian interpretations were also emerging at this time, such as Joseph Blotner's 1956 study of mythic patterns in To the Lighthouse, an essay that draws on Freud, Jung and the myth of Persephone.4 And there were studies of Bergsonian writing that made much of Woolf, such as Shiv Kumar's Bergson and the Stream of Consciousness Novel (1962). The most important work of this period was by the French critic Jean Guiguet. His Virginia Woolf and Her Works (1962); translated by Jean Stewart, 1965) was the first full-length study ofWoolf 's oeuvre, and it stood for a long time as the standard work of critical reference in Woolf studies. Guiguet draws on the existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre to put forward a philosophical reading of Woolf; and he also introduces a psychobiographical dimension in the non-self.' This existentialist approach did not foreground Woolf 's feminism, either. his heavy use of extracts from A Writer's Diary. He lays great emphasis on subjectivism in Woolf 's writing, and draws attention to her interest in the subjective experience of 'the moment.' Despite his philosophical apparatus, Guiguet refuses to categorise Woolf in terms of any one school, and insists that Woolf has indeed 'no pretensions to abstract thought: her domain is life, not ideology'. Her avoidance of conventional character makes Woolf for him a 'purely psychological' writer.5 Guiguet set a trend against materialist and historicist readings ofWoolf by his insistence on the primacy of the subjective and the psychological: 'To exist, for Virginia Woolf, meant experiencing that dizziness on the ridge between two abysses of the unknown, the self and

Jane Goldman
It is already the fashion to diminish Eliot by calling him derivative, the mouthpiece of Pound, and so forth; and yet if one wanted to understand the apocalypse of early modernism in its true complexity it would be Eliot, I fancy, who would demand one's closest attention. He was ready to rewrite the history of all that interested him in order to have past and present conform; he was a poet of apocalypse, of the last days and the renovation, the destruction of the earthly city as a chastisement of human presumption, but also of empire. Tradition, a word we especially associate with this modernist, is for him the continuity of imperial deposits; hence the importance in his thought of Virgil and Dante. He saw his age as a long transition through which the elect must live, redeeming the time. He had his demonic host, too; the word 'Jew' remained in lower case through all the editions of the poems until the last of his lifetime, the seventy-fifth birthday edition of 1963. He had a persistent nostalgia for closed, immobile hierarchical societies. If tradition is, as he said in After Strange Gods-though the work was suppressed-'the habitual actions, habits and customs' which represent the kinship 'of the same people living in the same place' it is clear that Jews do not have it, but also that practically nobody now does. It is a fiction, a fiction cousin to a myth which had its effect in more practical politics. In extenuation it might be said that these writers felt, as Sartre felt later, that in a choice between Terror and Slavery one chooses Terror, 'not for its own sake, but because, in this era of flux, it upholds the exigencies proper to the aesthetics of Art.' The fictions of modernist literature were revolutionary, new, though affirming a relation of complementarity with the past. These fictions were, I think it is clear, related to others, which helped to shape the disastrous history of our time. Fictions, notably the fiction of apocalypse, turn easily into myths; people will live by that which was designed only to know by. Lawrence would be the writer to discuss here, if there were time; apocalypse works in Woman in Love, and perhaps even in Lady Chatterley's Lover, but not n Apocalypse, which is failed myth. It is hard to restore the fictive status of what has become mythical; that, I take it, is what Mr. Saul Bellow is talking about in his assaults on wastelandism, the cant of alienation. In speaking of the great men of early modernism we have to make very subtle distinctions between the work itself, in which the fictions are properly employed, and obiter dicta in which they are not, being either myths or dangerous pragmatic assertions. When the fictions are thus transformed there is not only danger but a leak, as it were, of reality; and what we feel about. all these men at times is perhaps that they retreated inso some paradigm, into a timeless and unreal vacuum from which all reality had been pumped. Joyce, who was a realist, was admired by Eliot because he modernized myth, and attacked by Lewis because he concerned himself with mess, the disorders of common perception. But Ulysses , alone of these great works studies and develops the tension between paradigm and reality, asserts the resistance of fact to fiction, human freedom and unpredictability against plot. Joyce chooses a Day; it is a crisis ironically treated. The day is full of randomness. There are coincidences, meetings that have point, and coincidences which do not. We might ask whether one of the merits of the book is not its lack of mythologizing; compare Joyce on coincidence with the Jungians and their solemn concordmyth, the Principle of Synchronicity. From Joyce you cannot even extract a myth of Negative Concord; he shows us fiction fitting where it touches. And Joyce, who probably knew more about it than any of the others, was not at tracted by the intellectual opportunities or the formal elegance of fascism.

Frank Kermode
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